Dear Mayor Tory,
We are writing to you on behalf of 32 Spokes, Ward 14 Bikes, and Toronto East Cyclists—safe streets and bike advocacy groups in the east end. According to a recent CBC article, 1100 pedestrians have been hit in Toronto this year alone and 31 have died. The city’s Vision Zero campaign promises to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. To reach this goal, our expectation is that the city is focusing on changes that actually make our streets safe. We find recent statements from civic leaders deeply problematic and worrying because of their focus on things that we know will not bring about a safer city.
We see Councillor Lai and Councillor Pasternak actively encouraging city residents to wear high visibility garments, saying that this action is a key component of “doing our part”. Recent Toronto Police Services data shows that more than half of collisions between drivers and vulnerable users happen during daylight hours. In our experience, high visibility items serve only to highlight our presence. It doesn’t remove the friction between road users and pedestrians and that is of utmost importance: that behaviour is actually changed. High visibility garments will not make our streets safe.
In the same week, we saw Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders identify the use of “earbuds” as a key problem that needs to be solved when it comes to street safety. This statement is especially concerning to hear after Chief Saunders’s own admission that he was aware that the reduction of traffic enforcement by TPS led to an increase in collisions but denied a problem existed. Focusing on earbuds ignores or distracts from what will bring change: effective enforcement. Asking people to not wear earbuds will not make our streets safe.
We can see things getting worse and many of us, including our family, friends, and neighbours, share a common fear that something will happen to us or someone we love that is completely preventable. Mayor Tory, we ask for your support to get us back on track with #VisionZero and to send a strong message that wearing earbuds and high visibility garments will no longer become a central focus of any safety campaign in Toronto.
Please approve an increase in TPS traffic enforcement even more than the small task force approved in last week’s TPS board meeting. To effectively combat dangerous and careless road user behaviour, we need to see better traffic enforcement to undo the damage done in years past and get us on a path to improvement.
Please support a true commitment to #VisionZero that does not victim blame but rather focuses on actions that are proven to actually make streets safer: lowering speed limits, better road design, increased and improved infrastructure for alternatives to driving such as biking and walking and transit, and many more.
Kathleen Mackey, Mary Ann Neary, Michael Werneburg, On behalf of 32 Spokes
Michael Holloway, Gerry Brown, David Simmons, Jamie Kwan, Paul Young, Mark Fernandez, On behalf of Ward 14 Bikes
and Toronto East Cyclists